Friday, May 28, 2010

Like Bees to Honey by Caroline Smailes

A book review and a competition. Two for the price of one, eh?

Nina, her son Christopher in tow, flies to Malta for one last visit with her aging parents.

Her previous attempt to see them ended in tears. Disowned for falling pregnant while at university in England, she was not allowed into the house.

This will be her final chance to make her peace with them.

But Malta holds more secrets and surprises than Nina could possibly imagine. What she finds is not the land of her youth, a place full of memories and happiness. Instead she meets dead people. Lots of them.

Malta, it transpires, is a transit lounge for recently deceased spirits and somehow Christopher enables her to see them, speak with them and help them.

And, in return, they help Nina come to terms with her own loss. One so great that she has yet to admit it to herself.
I've followed Caroline Smailes' blog for several years now, and I am a big fan of her quirky style and imaginative way of marrying her words with briliant typography. Unique is a word that gets bandied around far too much, but Caroline's style, is just that - unique. I can't imagine anyone else writing the way she does, because I don't think anyone else could.
I was lucky enough to attend Caroline's launch party at the Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green on Tuesday (fans of indy bookshops, please go if you are ever in the Wood Green area, it is fantastic. You can find out all about it here) I had already decided I was going to enjoy Bees, when I read the blurb, but the minute Caroline read out an extract based in Liverpool (like me, she's an English grad from Liverpool), I knew I was hooked.
Actually, the Liverpool connection is a fairly minor one, but that doesn't matter, because Caroline takes us on a journey to Malta (an island I've never visited, but would love to now) that is so vividly haunting, the memory of this book will linger with me for a long time.
I loved the idea of Malta as a transit lounge for the recently departed - when Nina, the heroine visits her mother, she also gets to meet a variety of ghosts, who are there to help her come to terms with the secrets of her past, and to help her find redemption.
This is in many ways a very spiritual book - there is a lot of religion in here -but it's a kind of spirituality that's really earthbound. I loved the depiction of a hippyish Jesus, who paints his toenails because his feet are ugly, and drinks cans and cans of Cisk (Maltese beer -which Caroline kindly provided at her launch party and I can confirm tastes very lovely indeed) to see if he can get drunk (he can't). I loved the character of Tilly - a resentful house ghost, who is very very angry (touchingly we get to learn the source of that anger & see it healed) - but most of all I loved Nina, a woman who has cut ties with her past, and whose grief at what she subsequently believes is a punishment, is blinding her to the possibility of happiness in the future. As Jesus tells her she is caught in a hell of her own making - a hell on earth, which only she can escape.
This isn't always an easy read - there were moments when I was wide eyed with shock at things Caroline's characters revealed, and I wasn't always sure how she'd tie everything up. But as she deftly draws the strands together at the end of the book, I was completely transported, greedily devouring each page, unable to bear coming to the end. Mostly nowadays, when I read a book, lack of time means I rarely get to reread it, and often I'm not drawn back to it gain. Like Bees to Honey is such a thoroughly absorbing, and alluring read, that I am sure it is a book I will return to time and time again, because it's the kind of book that grows and ripens with each rereading.
I loved it. I'm sure you will too.
To celebrate the fact that Caroline and I shared our publication day yesterday, I am today giving away a signed copy of Like Bees to Honey to the person who comes up with the wittiest idea for a holding station for dead people. Particularly if you can tell me why.
Competition runs till midnight on 31 May. Please leave comments on my blog below.
Caroline is doing the same with The Bridesmaid Pact, so if you want to win a copy of that, hop over here now!

Friday, May 21, 2010

I'm so excited... I just can't hide it...

I'm about to lose control and I think I like it...

Tonight is the last ever episode of Ashes to Ashes. I have been very bad about blogging A2A this time around, not quite sure why, but may try and attempt a whole series round up next week.

Suffice to say, at the moment I am in the blissful but enjoyable position of not having A CLUE about wtf is going on, except, that a) I think the number plate of the Quattro is significant b) the box which Gene kept the roll of film in is one which all returning WW1 vets had (I got this courtesy of Spouse as his grandad had one), so am guessing the disfigured soldier Alex keeps seeing is a WW1 soldier, possibly related to Gene. In fact, maybe it is Gene... Have a feeling they are all dead and about to cross over or something and Gene needs to LEARN a Lesson... but I may be wrong about that.

In the meantime, I shall sit back enjoy the music (the soundtrack to A2A is SUPERB) and ogle at Gene for one last time, and laugh at Alex's Dennis the Menace jumper as it is EXACTLY like one I knitted for Spouse c 1987. He insisted on having it in mohair, and then put it in the wash, so it ended up fitting a teddy bear. Hmm.

Am devastated it's the end for Gene, but I guess he can't go on forever.

I just hope in true cowboy style he goes out in a blaze of glory....

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Bridesmaid Pact

As I am rapidly losing the will to live as noone still appears to be in charge (I was rather beginning to favour a Labservative deal, myself (-:), I thought I would share this joyous event with you instead. Today copies of The Bridesmaid Pact have arrived, and it is indeed a thing of beauty to behold. I can't believe all the hard work has finally paid off, but it has. I keep looking at it, it's so lovely. And now you can too.

It looks like I will be signing copies of The Bridesmaid Pact sometime in June in Epsom Waterstones, and I am also returning to Burway Books on 17 June to help sell books in their lovely shop. Will keep you posted about both events.

Friday, May 07, 2010

So I was wrong...

Hope is a very annoying word and I won't be using it again...

And the winner is... none of the above and certainly not us. If it's a Lib/Tory coalition Labour voters disenfranchised; if it's a Lib/Lab coalition Tory voters are (plus that would be obscene); and as LibDem voter I feel utterly disenfranchised. No one voted for this. The country needs strong leadership and is going to get muddled mixed message leadership and financially we're going to be in more of a mess then we would have been with an outright winner. What's clear is that the electoral system is in desperate need of reform. Tories are at least talking about it, but can they - will they? - deliver.

The good news is Nick Griffin didn't get in. Hurrah, hurrah. And all the BNP councillors in Barking & Dagenham lost their seats.

Oh and that nutty evangelical Tory in Sutton & Cheam also failed to oust the sitting MP.

And Jacqui Smith lost her seat. So not ALL bad...

Question is, how long can Gordy keep pretending he's still our PM. And will they have to pull him physically from no 10, shouting It's ME they want. You know it makes sense....?

I optimistically told no 1 she'd be old enough to vote next time, but I think we might going to the polls again, rather sooner then that...

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Future's Bright... but is it orange??

Well I hope you all voted. I feel passionately that everyone should vote, not only for the suffragettes (Every day, I walk past the cottage hospital where Emily Davison died after throwing herself under the King's horse at the 1913 Derby, and while I think she was bonkers, I appreciate the sacrifice she made so I can vote), but also for all those people in the world today who don't have a free and fair vote. Our electoral system might stink,but at least you can get out and exercise your democratic right.

Now the question is, what colour are we going to wake up to tomorrow morning. Despite Nick Clegg's surge following the Leaders' Debates I doubt he's going to pull it off, so I don't think the future's orange, sadly. I'm expecting a kind of muddy brown, which seems appropriate. Dear God, though, please don't let me wake up tomorrow to still find Gordy in charge. I really couldn't stand that. Nor am I overthrilled at the prospect of David Cameron being held to ransom by 9 MPs in Stormont. That doesn't strike me as exactly democratic.

What I DO hope can come out of this election is that the parties will be obliged to work much more closely together for the good of the country. Lord alone we need it. What none of the buggers has been saying clearly (with HOW much more conviction I would have cast my vote if one of them had) is what a godawful financial mess we are in. Whoever is in charge, cuts are going to be made, and they are going to be painful and deep, but for us to keep afloat, sadly necessary. If Labour hadn't squandered the fruits of seven years (or more) of plenty, we mightn't need it, but sadly they did and we do.

I would have also gladly cast my vote for a proper coalition government, which put aside party politics for once and put the needs of the country first for once, and took the great and the good from all the parties, and turned their minds to the common good, namely how to solve the financial crap without destroying people's homes, livelihoods and sanity. I know it's a pipe dream, but hey... in the words of my favourite Doctor, Hope, nice word. I like it. So whatever the future holds, orange or no, here's hoping we get better government, our electoral system is reformed and we can all look forward to that brighter future.(cue a playing of Over the Rainbow).

My cynical head says of course, that the songs for the election are Tell me Lies, by Fleetwood Mac and Won't Get Fooled Again by the Who, but for once I'm going to ignore my inner cynic.

This at least has been the most exciting election of my adult life, plus the debates appear to have generated a renewed interest in politics which can only be for the good, and maybe, just maybe, we are on the cusp of a major change.

Hope. Like I said. A nice word. One I like...